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Report Card Time – A Mindful Approach

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As parents, we all want to do what we can to reduce any type of school related anxiety for our children and minimize the possible stress it can bring into our households. As a parent coach, I’ve guided many parents to discover ways that will make school a positive experience for their child.

The distribution of report cards is one of those events that can trigger anxiety in many children. Here is an excerpt from my newly published book Autism Parenting: Practical Strategies for a Positive School Experience with the first five pages and six of my many tips to make this time as stress-free as possible for all.

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Chapter 6—Report Cards report card

All academic institutions utilize some type of evaluative measurement that is intended to quantify the knowledge of their students. Although grading systems may vary from school to school, most use report cards, or school accountability reports, as some call them, as a means of informing parents about their child’s academic progress.

Report card formats vary, depending on the student’s grade level. There tends to be a different or more informal format from Kindergarten through fifth grade. Middle school uses a more formal layout, which is when report cards begin to take on more meaning. Middle school typically begins in sixth grade, but depending on the educational institution your child attends it could begin in fifth grade.

Regardless of the reporting system used, or the grade your child is in, responding to a report card effectively is something you would be wise to practice early on. Don’t wait for your child to come home with a poor grade in middle school when the course work is more challenging. Good or bad, your reaction will have an impact on your child’s progress, so the sooner you become more mindful about how you react, the better.

Responding to a poor report card is always a difficult task for both parent and child. If you find yourself in such a situation, try not to dwell on the negative, and think of it as a wonderful opportunity for quality time that shows you trust in your child’s ability to do better.

There are many ways to help alleviate the stress that may ensue from a poor report. Following are some strategies to help you and your child make the most of this event. Keep in mind that implementing some of these suggestions will depend on where you child is on the autism spectrum.

  • Honor all realities. Report card time is never experienced the same by everyone. Ask yourself, “When was the last time I was evaluated for anything I did, and how did it feel?” For some it can be a very satisfying and joyful occasion, and for others a very anxious and stressful time. Depending on the spoken or unspoken academic expectations, your child may be worried that she has let you down, and may be feeling embarrassed or very disappointed in herself. On the other hand, you might feel as if you are not being a “good enough” parent, and begin to harbor a sense of failure.
  • Take control. You hold the power to turn report card time into a constructive learning experience instead of a choice between a positive or negative encounter. When report card time arrives, it is important to keep your response in check. Whether your child brings home very good grades or poor ones, your reaction may have a greater impact on your child than you realize. How you react has the potential to determine continued school success, or ongoing educational struggles for you and your child.
  • Shift your focus. Pay attention to the things that matter most when your child shares his report card with you. If you only focus on the letter or number grades he receives, it will only accentuate evaluation and competition. A better alternative is to concentrate on the learning process and ask questions such as:

What did you learn this grading period (in science, math, art, etc.)?

What was most enjoyable to you?

What came easy to you this time?

What do you think you could have changed or done differently?

What will your strategy be for the next grading period?

What assistance do you need to accomplish these goals?

Fueling a conversation such as this will encourage your child to become more mindful about his learning experience, and better able to identify what works so he can duplicate it for continued success.

  • Stop and think. Prior to any response, remind yourself to take a deep breath and choose your words carefully before you speak. When first presented with a poor report card, it may be too overwhelming and unreasonable for you to take it in all at once. Take the time to deliberately review each grade individually, and discuss it calmly, to help both of you digest the information in small bites.
  • Ask questions. Inquiring if your child truly understands why she got a particular grade can provide you with valuable insight. It’s very possible she may say she has no idea why, or something like, “The teacher doesn’t like me.” if she feels she has to defend herself. Once you recognize her level of comprehension about what led to this point, you can more easily determine the next step to take. Some students are very slow to process the cause and effect of their study habits on their grades. A plausible next step in this case might be to plan an opportunity to discuss study habits with your child.
  • Engage your child.  Invite your child to become a more engaged participant in managing his academics, because it will encourage him to develop ownership in his learning process. Ask him what he thinks about his grades, and if he has any idea what he needs to do to improve the lower ones. Students who are given an opportunity to discuss their performance, and become actively involved in making decisions, are more likely to become internally motivated, and lifelong learners. If he displays confusion on how to proceed, simply offer your guidance in developing a plan that has specific, realistic, and achievable goals.

On the other hand, if your child has done well academically, then responding to a good report card should be pretty straight forward, right? You may think this is an easier task, but there are many things to consider in order to avoid the development of unrealistic expectations, and unnecessary pressure. …

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To read the rest of this chapter about responding to your child’s report card as well as all other school related topics – school anxiety, bullies, homework, making friends, special education meetings, morning routines, study skills, school vacation, etc. – you can access Autism Parenting: Practical Strategies for a Positive School ExperienceOver 300 tips to help parents enhance their child’s school success here  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01KKM7PQE in print or Kindle format. For more details and information about the book before you buy simply click here.

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